Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, and The Buckinghams
There has always been a corner of the pop market inhabited by acts with a youthful appeal so specific and calculated that their life expectancy — at least on the charts that measure their commercial popularity — couldn’t help but be brief. Their hits were bright and melodic, but after a few turns over a year or two on radio, audiences grew restless and moved on to newer acts designed around the same marketing strategy.
Of course, there is an element more powerful and profitable than contemporary stardom: nostalgia. How else do you explain a pack of pop troupes that chalked up a boatload of radio-friendly hits during quick but concentrated runs roughly 50 years ago, yet are playing for audiences today?
Three such acts will be in action Sunday evening at the EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond, and another headlines its own show next weekend at the Norton Center for the Arts.
The EKU bill will be headlined by Herman’s Hermits, one of the more popular entries in the British pop invasion of the mid-1960s. Still fronted by singer Peter Noone — then a pop star in his teens, now an industry veteran at age 69 — the group charted more than a dozen hits. The most popular ones — “I’m into Something Good,” “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” — were issued in quick succession in 1965 and 1966. The group also chalked up seven gold albums and sold a cumulative worldwide total of 60 million records.
The San Diego-rooted Gary Puckett and the Union Gap were, curiously, a slightly bigger deal in Britain than back home. None of the group’s major hits “Woman, Woman,” “Young Girl,” “Lady Willpower” or “Over You” hit No. 1 here, although “Young Girl” did overseas. Still, those songs made Puckett and his Civil War-costumed bandmates staples on pop radio between summer 1967 and fall 1969.
Rounding out the EKU lineup will be The Buckinghams. Still with co-founding guitarists Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna on board, the Chicago band’s legacy stems from a burst of 1966 and 1967 singles, led by the neo-psychedelic “Kind of a Drag.” The initial lineup disbanded in 1970 but reformed in 1980 and has been touring and recording ever since.
The vintage pop parade continues next weekend, when The Association heads to the Norton Center.
An on-air contemporary of Puckett and The Buckinghams, The Association possessed a decidedly more soft pop sound that reflected trace elements of folk. Its radio presence was established on a quartet of 1966 and ’67 vocal-rich hits for Warner Bros.: “Along Comes Mary,” “Cherish,” “Windy” and “Never My Love.” The popularity took the band to a variety of performance settings, from “The Smother Brothers Comedy Hour” on CBS (which it played three times) to placement as the introductory act at the celebrated Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 (the group opened a Friday bill headlined by Simon & Garfunkel, Eric Burdon and the Animals, and Johnny Rivers).
Today’s Association features co-founding guitarists and vocalists Jules Alexander and Jim Yester along with Jordan Cole, son of the group’s original bass guitarist, Brian Cole, who died of a drug overdose in 1972.
Four acts encompassing two shows on separate weekends. Between them, they represent another pop era — one that seemed short-lived at the time. Little did any of them know those hits would fill concert halls a half-century later.